The Sensitivity Theory of Aberrant Motivation
The Ohio State University
In 1985, Richard McNally and I introduced the concept of anxiety sensitivity to explain data pertaining to the treatment of anxiety disorders. In 1996, Susan Havercamp and I generalized certain aspects of that concept--individual differences in sensitivity to a universally reinforcing stimulus--into a comprehensive theory of human motivation called sensitivity theory. This generalized theory is expounded and updated in this chapter, with particular attention paid to the concept of aberrant motivation and implications for psychopathology.
All motives can be classified as either extrinsic (means) or as intrinsic (ends).
The number of extrinsic motives is potentially limitless. A central issue for
behavioral science is to identify and classify the intrinsic motives (end purposes)
Motives are organizing forces relevant to understanding how "behavior, cognition, and affect function as coordinated, interacting systems" ( Dweck, 1992, p. 166). Two types of motives are goals and sensitivities--people seek goals and avoid sensitivities. Any given goal or sensitivity may be analyzed as either intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. The distinction is based on the purpose of the behavior. As defined here, intrinsic motivation is indicated when a person